Oostende vs Royal Antwerp
Friday 21st January – 19:45PM KO
The first game of the weekend in Belgium sees a huge mismatch, as Oostende welcome high-flying Royal Antwerp to the Versluys Arena. De Kustboys currently sit just four points above the relegation play-off spot, and have lost eight of their last 10 games in the Pro League. Visitors Antwerp meanwhile have lost only once in their past eight, and this was a 3-2 defeat by Standard Liege who had a man advantage for the entire second half. Antwerp had been struggling to balance European competition with their league campaign, but after finishing bottom of their Europa League group, this is no longer a concern, and their form has become much more consistent since then.
Antwerp resumed the season after the winter break with a 3-0 win over a decent Sporting Charleroi side, which is nothing to be sniffed at. Oostende meanwhile have not kicked a ball since Boxing Day, their fixture last weekend postponed. The break may be helpful, but with Antwerp having a full week to recover since their first game back, it seems more likely that Oostende will instead struggle with a lack of match sharpness amongst the players.
Oostende have one win and four defeats in their previous five home games, their only win coming against a Eupen side who have won only one league game since the 3rd of October (against bottom of the league Beerschot). Antwerp’s away form is not particularly special, with five wins out of ten games on the road, however they have scored in every single away game this season, and they will expect to keep that up in Ostend. Considering all of this, 1.91 is a very generous price and one I will definitely be taking advantage of this matchweek.
Prediction: Antwerp to Win, 1.95 on Betfair (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)
Kortrijk vs Eupen
Saturday 22nd January – 15:15PM KO
Eupen’s terrible form has already got a mention above, but it really should be emphasised just how badly off the rails their season has gone. They started the season very strongly, losing just twice in ten games, yet since then Stefan Kramer’s side have been spiralling, losing nine games out of their last twelve in the league, with just a single victory to show for their efforts in this time, which as mentioned above, was against Beerschot who are cut adrift at the foot of the table. They have lost six in a row on the road, scoring just three times in these six games, whilst conceding 14 goals in these games.
Kortrijk, by contrast have lost just twice at home all season, and have generally tended to do about as well as you would expect, beating the sides sitting below them in the table and losing to, or occasionally nicking draws against the sides above them. This consistency has made them a reliable selection all season long, and were it not for a couple of players missing at the Africa Cup of Nations, most notably midfielder Faiz Selemaine with 13 goals and assists from his 20 league appearances, I would have gone for Kortrijk to win.
Kortrijk sit just outside the second set of play-off spots, and will be keen to force their way into these positions as quickly as possible, whilst also putting some distance between themselves and the teams just below, most obviously the in-form Cercle Brugge who lie one place behind in tenth. Cercle dispatched Eupen last weekend comfortably, 2-0, and Kortrijk will be well aware that despite being only seven points behind them in the league, Eupen at home, in this form, is one of the more generous fixtures they have in the second half of the season.
If you fancy upping the stakes on this accumulator, Kortrijk to win would be my recommendation, as it really is impossible to overstate just how poor Eupen have been in the last couple of months.
Prediction: Kortrijk Draw No Bet, 1.36 on Betfair (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)
Beerschot vs OH Leuven
Saturday 22nd January – 17:30PM KO
Bottom of the table Beerschot welcome OH Leuven to the Olympisch Stadion in Antwerp in one of two tea-time fixtures on Saturday. Neither side seems to be nursing many injuries, nor too many absentees through illness or international duty, so we can expect both managers to field essentially their strongest sides. Unfortunately for the hosts, their strongest side has struggled massively this season, currently sitting a huge 10 points off the side above them in the relegation play-off spots and four places above safety. They have the division’s worst goal difference and only one side has conceded more goals. They returned to action following the winter break with a 4-1 defeat by midtable Genk, which suggests whatever work was done during the three-week break has not done much to turn their fortunes around.
Beerschot have won two and lost nine of their home fixtures this season, which, interestingly enough has seen 11 games pass without Both Teams To Score landing once (the league average shows that BTTS lands for nearly 60% of games in the Pro League). These two wins were against 17th-placed Seraing, and a shock 2-0 win over Gent, who thrashed them last weekend. Since then they have lost all three home games, and their last home match before the winter break saw them go down 7-0 to Anderlecht.
Leuven are a solid, if unspectacular mid-table side. Their goalscoring and defensive records are pretty much right on top of the league average, and though it feels as though they have been treading water for much of the season, they are just six points off the second set of play-off spots, with a game in hand, and they will know that a solid run of form could quickly vault them up the table. They really should beat Beerschot, however their attack can struggle against sides which defend deep, and a draw is certainly on the cards as well, which is why I am sticking with Draw No Bet on this one, especially when it is such a reasonable price considering just how far off the pace Beerschot have been all season so far.
Prediction: OH Leuven Draw No Bet, 1.57 on Betfair (⭐⭐⭐⭐)
Sporting Charleroi vs Gent
Saturday 22nd January – 19:45PM KO
Fifth plays sixth in this important clash at the Stade du Pays de Charleroi, where both sides know that a win will lift them three points clear of the other, and slot them just one point behind Anderlecht in that all-important final Championship play-off position. Charleroi’s home games this season have been impressively low-scoring, and in an important game where defeat for either team could be extremely costly, I see little reason for this to change in the evening kick-off.
At home so far this season, Charleroi have seen over 2.5 goals land in just four of ten games, whereas the average league side has seen it land in six of ten, and the same goes for over 3.5 goals, landing twice for Charleroi, whereas the league average sits on four out of ten. Gent’s away form also plays into this, with over 2.5 goals landing four times from 11, whilst over 3.5 goals has landed just once, way below what we would expect in the high-scoring Pro League. Gent’s over 1.5 goals record is what really sells this to me. They have seen over 1.5 land a mere five times in 11 games this season. By contrast, the average league side would expect to see over 1.5 goals in 9 of 11 games.
It really would be a shock to see an open and expansive game on Saturday night at Charleroi, and at 2.1, under 2.5 goals is a fantastic price when you consider just how infrequent high-scoring games have occurred for these two sides playing at home or on the road. Gent will look to keep the game tight and bag some points if the opportunity arises, while Charleroi will be conscious of what a defeat could do to their season, and will be equally unwilling to leave themselves exposed. 0-0 or 1-0 seems by far the most likely result in this fixture, and judging by the records of the respective sides this year, we will be desperately unlucky to see more than two goals in this fixture.
Prediction: Under 2.5 Goals, 2.1 on Betfair (⭐⭐⭐⭐)
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